Kiara Ayoub

Neuroscience and Mental Health
Field of Research:
Parkinson’s Disease and Microbiota (Neuroscience)
Zach Dwyer (PhD Student) and Dr. Shawn Hayley (Professor)

Reason For Participating

The reason why I chose to do I-CUREUS was to get experience in the field of my interest and gain research experience. This program lets me work in a lab and gain knowledge about if this is the career for me. It allows me to get to know my supervisors and put hands on experience on real life issues today.


Currently we know the pathophysiology underlying Parkinson’s but not how it arises, which individuals are most at risk or what can be done to reduce the risk of an individual developing Parkinson’s. My research group focuses on understanding the Parkinson’s disease, specifically the contribution of inflammation and environmental factors to the disease.

My own project is aimed at discovering how changes in the gut may help prevent, or predispose individuals to developing Parkinson’s disease.

Kiara’s Role

My role in this process is staining the brain tissue of the mice that were given probiotics and gut mucosa disruptors as well as environmental toxins known to contribute to Parkinson’s. The staining is done in order to assess the inflammatory profile of the brain’s immune cells (the microglia) and to quantify the number of dopamine cells which is the primary indicator of Parkinson’s and its severity. The staining of brain tissues is done by using immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry. I am also learning advanced microscope imaging techniques in order to quantify my data.

Relation to Studies

In my neuroscience classes, especially in first year, we learned a lot about the type of neurological diseases (mental and physical) that are common in our everyday life, such as Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a brain disease specifically in the substantia nigra compacta (SNC). Learning in class about the anatomy of the brain, as well as some basic knowledge about the symptoms/characteristics of the disease, enhanced my research, and my ability to learn further details in class. The research has helped me in some of my classes by teaching me about techniques that I’m being taught in class. Specifically, in my research methods class I was able to apply techniques and concepts to what I was learning about in class.

Value of Experience

The most valuable skill I’ve gained from this experience so far is being able to time manage. Having been in the lab twice a week, and having lab reports and other school as well as extracurricular as well it was helpful being able to manage my time. Also, the meticulous attention to detail required when staining and imaging has greatly helped me focus during studying.

Currently in the neuroscience program there are no lab courses and due to this reason, my lab experience has been in other departments. This experience, being in the neuroscience lab, has given me insight on what kind of work is being researched in the neuroscience field and some of the unique techniques used to investigate the brain and what scientists and graduate students in neuroscience actually do on a day to day basis while seeking to solve these problems.

To Future Participants

I would tell future I-CUREUS participants that it’s a great, very well-organized program that allows you to do work that you are passionate about. It provides you with an insight as to what research is like, specifically in your field of interest. Furthermore, it allows you to get to know faculty members and other students in the neuroscience program.